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How an estate plan helps your loved ones

If you've been postponing putting an estate plan in place, you're not alone. No one enjoys thinking about what will happen after they're gone. However, estate plans typically are largely for the benefit of those left behind -- or those who have to make decisions if a loved one is incapacitated.

Developing an estate plan, whether it's a simple will or you include a trust and/or other documents, can help your family and other loved ones in a variety of ways. With a good estate plan, you can:

  • Lessen the chances of family conflict or challenges to the estate. By having a detailed estate plan and also giving your family an idea of what to expect, they're less likely to question your wishes.
  • Minimize involvement by the courts. If you die without a will ("intestate"), the law determines how your estate is divided. You can also take steps to keep your estate out of probate court, which will make things easier, less expensive and more private for your family.
  • Provide uninterrupted support for those who need it. If a child, spouse, parents or others rely on you for financial support, you can help ensure through your estate plan that they will continued to get that support.
  • Help minimize taxes. A well-crafted estate plan can keep your loved ones from having to pay estate and gift taxes.
  • Ensure that your business keeps running smoothly. If you own a business, having a succession plan, including someone whom you've prepared to carry on the business for you, can minimize the impact of your death on the business and your employees.

Even if you don't have a considerable amount of assets, the process of dealing with an estate when there are no estate planning documents in place can be highly stressful, time-consuming and expensive for people at a time when they're already dealing with losing a loved one. You can give your family a valuable gift by working with an attorney to develop an estate plan that will help make things easier for them after you're gone.

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